Council accused of ‘sneaking through’ leisure costs

Reporter:

Matt Jones

FLINTSHIRE Council has hiked up leisure charges by 10 per cent.

The council has been accused of “sneaking through” the county-wide increase as prices for all services including swimming pools, football pitches and aerobic classes rose last month.

But the council has hit back, saying the same procedure has been used for the last 10 yers.

It comes as the council struggles to deal with a massive overspend on leisure in recent years.

Labour councillor Aaron Shotton has hit out at the decision which he says was made behind closed doors and had been “sneaked through”.

He said: “To raise charges by 10 per cent is bad enough, but to do it without following the democratic process is disgraceful. Opposition Labour councillors have not had the opportunity to scrutinise the Tory and Independent led-council’s hike in prices.

“I noticed when I took my children to Connah’s Quay leisure centre that they have a revised tariff. It is not just about the 10 per cent, which is a massive rise, but that it has been done under delegated powers. There has been no report to executive and it cannot be scrutinised.

“It is frustrating. This is going to hit families hard. At a time when we are trying to save leisure centres it is a disincentive.”

The council is still in discussions with governors at Connah’s Quay High School, Castell Alun in Hope and St David’s High School in Saltney about plans to share
responsibility for the centres and keep them open to the public out of school hours.

Other cost cutting measures approved include lone working and centralised booking while job losses are hoped to be achieved through voluntary redundancies or redeployment.

Richard McKinley, treasurer of Connah’s Quay Tigers junior football club, said the increase has not yet been felt as the club has yet to be invoiced under the new charges.

He said: “We are aware of the increases. It will have an affect in the long term with an increase in subscriptions. We try and keep the costs as low as possible, but if the prices go up it will have an affect.”

Cllr Dennis Hutchinson, executive member for Leisure, said: “Prices for 2011 have been adjusted, on average, by about 10 per cent with effect from the beginning of January.

“Part of this increase is accounted for by the recent 2.5 per cent increase in VAT.

“In setting the prices we have followed the same procedure this year as we have for over 10 years, which is that the price adjustments are presented to the director and executive member responsible for the service and determined under delegated powers as they have been under previous council administrations.”

See full story in the Leader

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